- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

12:57 p.m.

BERLIN (AP) — The strikers are scoring, the defense is holding, and Germany is off to its best World Cup start in 36 years.

Miroslav Klose scored twice today to help the World Cup host beat Ecuador 3-0. The victory gave Germany the maximum nine points and first place in Group A.

Lukas Podolski also scored for Germany, which last won its first three matches at a World Cup in 1970.

Even better than the prolific offense — Germany has eight goals in the first round — is a once-vulnerable defense that has not conceded a goal in two straight games.

Both teams were assured of advancing to the second round before the kickoff. Their opponents will be determined after later matches pitting England against Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago against Paraguay. Germany, a three-time World Cup winner, will play Saturday in Munich, and Ecuador will play Sunday in Stuttgart.

Klose, who has nine World Cup goals, finished strong amid German pressure early in the match when he scored in the fourth minute.

After a German corner kick, the Ecuadorean defense could not clear the ball, and it was sent back to defender Per Mertesacker, who flicked it over to the far post. Bastian Schweinsteiger crossed it back onto the path of Klose, who drove it inside the far post.

Klose celebrated with his trademark somersault, a gesture he says is reserved for important goals in big games.

The striker, who also scored twice in Germany’s 4-2 opening win over Costa Rica, had several other shots and another attempt stopped by goalkeeper Cristian Mora.

By then, the early pace had slackened considerably, and even the capacity crowd of 72,000 appeared to slumber in the afternoon heat.

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